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Experiment 1: Operation of Oscilloscope and Nuclear Electronics

The purpose of this experiment is to introduce the student to the Oscilloscope, Pulser and NIM modules.
These are the instruments that are used in counting systems in Nuclear Physics.

Almost all nuclear radiation measurements involve the use of electronic equipment. Some systems will
be complete instruments such as the survey instruments introduced in an earlier session. More
general/especially in the laboratory, a system for a particular measurement will be assembled using
standard instrument packages. For nuclear counting measurements most of the instrumentation
conforms to the Nuclear Instrument Module (NIM) Standard that was established in the early 1960's to
standardize the equipment used in low energy nuclear physics. The NIM Standard specifies the size of the
modules, the power supply voltages and currents, the signal shapes and levels, the input and output
characteristics of the modules and the connectors, (refer G. F. Knoll textbook)
When interconnecting the instrument modules, particular care must be exercised that the output of one
module is compatible with the input of the next module. It is also important to know when a module is
malfunctioning or not adjusted properly. Although tests can be devised to test a system's operation, the
fastest way to insure the proper adjustment and operation is to observe the shapes of the electric pulses
going into and out of each module. An oscilloscope is used for this purpose.
An oscilloscope is a device that permits one to examine the time dependence of electric signals. Its vertical
axis (y) corresponds to the amplitude of a signal and the horizontal axis corresponds to time. Thus using
an oscilloscope while assembling a radiation detection system will permit us to insure that the individual
modules are working properly and the signals from the modules agree with the specifications stated by
the manufacturer.
The typical laboratory oscilloscope is a versatile instrument with forty or more controls. However, the
various controls can generally be grouped into four main functions, those governing the focusing and
intensity of the beam, those governing the scale of y axis, those governing the scale of x axis called time
base), and those responsible for creating stable CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) displays (called triggering). Refer
to the manual of the oscilloscopes for a detailed descriptions of each control.
A Pulser is designed to simulate the output signal "of a nuclear particle reaction in a nuclear detector and
is used to check the performance (linearity, electronic resolution, etc.) of a radiation counting system. The
pulser (ORTEC 480) provides pulses characterized by a fast rise time, (usually < 10 ns 10-90%) and a slow
exponential decay time (several hundred micro-seconds). The output amplitude is adjustable by
attenuation switches or a potentiometer.
The signal chain shown in Fig. 1 represents a basic measurement scheme in which only the number or
rate of pulses from a detector is to be recorded.


Therefore. The output of the amplifier is a positive unipolar or a bipolar pulse with a positive leading edge. logic pulse is then generated. are used together to select the desired pulse height. In modern pulse height analyzing system. The integral discriminator usually is built in a counter unit which counts and displays the number of logic pulses. two discriminators. More details on pulse shaping are given in chapter 16 of the Knoll's textbook. The differentiation and integration time constant are on the order of s. The function of a linear amplifier is to amplify and shape the pulses from the preamplifier for pulse height analyzing. a logic pulse is produced and counted. A preamplifier has two main functions. logic pulses are generated.DiscriPreDetector → Amplifier → Amplifier → minator → Timer ← Counter Figure 1. Most amplifiers use CR-RC network to provide output pulses with Gaussian shaping. The working principle of an MCA will be discussed in a later lab session. 2 . In order to count properly. It is usually located next to a detector to serve as an impedance matcher. The integral discrimination mode of operation is the simplest method for converting shaped linear pulses into logic pulses. A more common method of analyzing pulse height is using an SCA in the differential discriminator mode (or window mode). a differential pulse height spectrum can be obtained directly by adjusting the LLD and ULD settings sequentially. When the linear pulse exceeds the discrimination level (or called threshold). A single channel analyzer (SCA) or an integral discriminator can be used for this purpose. a multichannel analyzer (MCA) is used to obtain the differential pulse height spectrum in a parallel operation. The output of a preamplifier is a linear tail pulse with a fast rise time (< 1 s) and a slow fall time (> 50 s). Bipolar pulses are used for high counting rate experiments or timing experiments. the shaped linear pulses must be converted into logic pulses. Basic pulse counting system In this experiment a pulser is used to simulate the output of a detector. A Gaussian shaping amplifier requires an input pulse with a fast rise time (< 1 s) and a decay time (> 50 s) with either a positive or negative polarity. a lower level discriminator (LLD) and an upper level discriminator (ULD). If the input pulse amplitude exceeds the LLD level but not the ULD level. In this mode. If the linear pulses meet the conditions imposed by the SCA or integral discriminator. It also minimizes the capacitance loading on the detector and thus maximizes signal to noise ratio.

adjust the channel 1 Position and Horizontal Position to center the trace on the screen. Amplitude of square wave: _______________________________ Frequency of square wave: _______________________________ 3 . Oscilloscope Turn-On Procedure - Turn the power on and set the controls and switches as follows: 2. Attach the probe tip and reference lead to the Probe Comp connectors. Time base and triggering - Triggering source: channel 1 (to find this press menu button on the trigger scale) Triggering source coupling: DC (to find this press menu button on trigger scale) Trigger Level: 0 Trigger mode: Auto Slope out: (+) Time/div: 1 ms (try using the knob on the horizontal scale) There need not be a signal connected to the scope at this moment to see a trace displayed on the screen. We usually use a fast sweep to observe a fast varying signal and a slow sweep to observe a slowly varying signal. What you have just done is to change the horizontal sweep speed (time setting).Part 1: Oscilloscope functional check Equipment - Oscilloscope: TDS 3032C SERIES Pulser: Ortec 480 Procedure 1. Now. Push the Autoset button. You now have the most basic display: a free running trace with a voltage level zero volt (any DC level will be referred to this GND level). Vertical Controls - Vertical mode : Channel 1 Input coupling: GND (to find this press the menu button on the vertical scale). you should see a square wave in the display. 4. - Connect the Oscilloscope probe to channel 1. Using a probe to do the self-calibration procedure of the oscilloscope. Turn the TIME/DIV knob to 20 ms and 200 ms. Volts/division: 5 (try using the big knob on the vertical scale) 3. Write down the amplitude in Volts and frequency in KHz of the square wave.

Try to get a stable display with the Trigger mode by adjusting the Trigger Level and measure the amplitude of the pulse (use proper Volt/div setting). and 10% of the peak amplitude using proper Time/dIv settings. In order to see the leading edge clearly. Set the Polarity switch of the pulser to NEG. you have to change the time base. Amplitude: _______________________________ 7. Turn the channel 1 input coupling switch to DC. 3. Connect the pulser ATTEN OUTPUT to the scope channel 1 with a BNC ended coaxial cable. Adjust the time base and horizontal position so that only the first pulse can be seen. Play the horizontal sweep speed by changing the TIme/div knob to determine the repetition rate of the pulse (frequency).Part 2: Observing the output signal of a Pulser Equipment - Oscilloscope Pulser NIM Bin 1. What happened to the first pulse? 4 . Turn the Trigger level knob to slightly less than zero. Turn the NIM bin power switch on and set the pulser controls as follows: - PULSE HEIGHT: fully clockwise All ATTENUATORS: x l OFF/ON: ON Polarity POS/NEG: POS TIME/DIV: 2 ms (on the Oscilloscope) Direct Output: with Terminator All attenuation switches in these two models should be pressed down to get x l attenuation. 5. Now. Turn the channel 1 input coupling switch to AC. These pulses have a fast leading edge (less than 10 ns) with a slow trailing edge to simulate the typical output pulse from a nuclear detector. Is there any measurable DC level in the pulse? Increase the VOLT/DIV to see the small difference. 4. Measure the time that it takes for the pulse falling to 90%. increase intensity and shield the strayed light around. Repetition rate of the pulse: _______________________________ 9. Do you see a stable display when you turn the Trigger Level knob fully clockwise and counter-clockwise? 6. you should see the pulses output from the pulser on the screen. 50%. Does the tail of the pulse follow exponential decay? What is the time constant? 10. DC level in the pulse: _______________________________ 8. Slide the pulser inside the NIM bin 2.

Adjust the attenuation switch and/or pulse height knob of the pulser so that the pulser produces 0. Record the settings of your pulser. You should observe two traces: one is the output of the pulser and the other is the output of preamplifier. 2. X10. Once the input signal is properly triggered. You probably need to change the Volt/div setting. and X50. Peak amplitude with Attenuator at × 2: _______________________________ Peak amplitude with Attenuator at × 5: _______________________________ Peak amplitude with Attenuator at × 10: _______________________________ Peak amplitude with Attenuator at × 50: _______________________________ Part 3: Observing the output of preamplifier Equipment - Oscilloscope Pulser ORTEC 480 Preamplifier ORTEC 142A Amplifier ORTEC 485 Discriminator ORTEC 551 T-shape BNC connector Procedures 1. Measure the peak amplitude when the attenuation is at X5. 3. Set the attenuation of the pulser to x2 and measure the peak amplitude. Connect the power cable of the preamplifier to a power source located on the rear of a linear amplifier.2 V negative pulses. Feed the pulser ATTN output to both the scope CH 1 and the preamplifier TEST input with a "T" shaped BNC connector. The 142A preamplifier is designed to operate over a detector input capacitance range from 0-100 pF. Feed the energy (E) output of the preamplifier to CH 2 of the scope. the Trigger light will be on. Compare the shape and amplitude of the two signals. You may need to adjust trigger level for a stable display. Turn on the pulser and feed the ATTN output to CH 1 of the scope.11. How does the preamplifier shape change when you change the pulser amplitude? 5 .

3.Part 4: Observing the output of a linear shaping amplifier 1. Reconfigure your cables so you can see both the pulser output and the amplifier output on the oscilloscope at the same time. Set the controls of the amplifier as follows: - Fine Gain: minimum (fully counter-clockwise) Coarse Gain 2 Polarity UNIPOLAR. 6 . Reconfigure your cables so you can see both the preamplifier output and the amplifier output on the oscilloscope at the same time. POS (because preamp output is positive) 2.